Rarely have I been quite as baffled or indecisive about an album as I was when this one was released. The track listing looked ingenius (The Ultracheese? The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip?) but Alex Turner’s latest fashion styling made him look like the sort of seedy character that hung around with Huggy Bear in 70s cop show Starsky and Hutch. The lounge chic ambience was such a country mile away from the feel of previous (and adored) album AM, that I just wasn’t sure I’d come to terms with it.
Written on a piano gifted to Alex Turner, once the idea of a hotel on the moon was developed, it gave Turner a whole range of new vocabulary to play with and explore. And as usual the lyrics are an absolute joy, delivered via the medium of Sheffield’s favourite mouthpiece. One thing I like is how good Alex Turner’s diction is – when you write lyrics this good, you want them to be heard. I could write lots and lots of lyrics in this review, but I’ll try and employ a measure of restraint and just quote a few:
“Technological advances really bloody get me in the mood, pull me in close on a crisp eve baby, kiss me beneath the Moon’s side boob.” (Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino)
“I launch my fragrance called Integrity, I sell the fact that I can’t be bought. Have I told you all about the time that I got sucked into a hand held device?” (Batphone)
“I feel rougher than a disco lizard tongue along your cheek.” (Science Fiction)
“The exotic sound of data storage, Nothing like it first thing in the morning.” (The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip)
And that’s not to mention snowboarding cheeseburgers, swamp monsters, the fact that Alex lost his train of thought (leading to some amusing stage wandering on tour) or the rather startling talent of turning a hotel telephone answering blurb into a song chorus. And there are lots of little cross references to keep the nerds happy – the video for the title track shows Alex answering an actual Batphone and visiting a cinema showing The Martini Police, mentioned in opening track Star Treatment. “She Looks Like Fun” has the lyric, “Wayne Manor, what an NYE,” again referring to Batman. Incidentally, She Looks Like Fun is possibly the only track that might have appeared on another Arctic Monkeys album, as it has a prominent guitar solo.
It’s probably an album that I admire more than adore, but when the shakedown comes, it seems that the voice and lyrics of Alex Turner are actually enough in themselves to keep me happy.